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Pest control tips for the spring home gardener


REGION — Along with warmer weather and new plant growth, spring also brings an unwelcome abundance of garden pests. Ricardo Aguilar, president and CEO of Aguilar Plant Care, said spring creates a perfect storm of conditions that encourage pests.

His tips for home gardeners to keep pests at bay and plants healthy are to educate yourself, do not overuse pesticides, be vigilant in addressing pests, set reasonable expectations and know when to call in a professional.

Educate yourself

Aguilar said he highly recommends that home gardeners educate themselves about best practices through the University of California Integrated Pest Management website. He said he often sends educational links to customers to explain what is going on with their landscaping. A good place to start is

“It’s a great resource, and it’s free,” Aguilar said. “I use it once a day and I’ve been doing this for 12 years.”

Do not overuse pesticides

The first line of defense against pests is over the counter pesticide soaps and oils. It is important not to overuse products. More is not better. It often damages the plant.

Adhering to directions is even more important with stronger pesticides. Often a little goes a long way, and directions for best results are to mix a small amount with water before application. Synthetic pesticides are safe when they are used correctly.

Be vigilant in addressing pests

Spring brings an increase in pests. New plant growth is a target for aphids, whiteflies and other unwanted garden guests. Gardeners need to keep on their toes and address pests as soon as they are spotted to keep pests and plant destruction from multiplying.

“Don’t wait for the weekend if you notice pests on Tuesday,” Aguilar said. “An insect can go from egg to becoming a complete egg laying adult within a week if the weather is right.”

Set reasonable expectations

In some cases pests will continue to live on a plant that is green and healthy. It is simply part of the natural ecosystem, and further spraying will not change things. Aguilar said in this case gardeners who want a completely insect free plant may have to buy a new plant. He encourages gardeners to go to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website to learn more.

Know when to call in a professional

Aguilar said he encourages home gardeners to address pests with do-it-yourself methods. When those fail, call in a professional. If a pest problem has gotten serious, a professional spray of the property may be in order.

Aguilar said his services are also called upon when hard to deal with exotic pests are found.

“We coin ourselves the last line of defense,” Aguilar said. “People call us when it’s getting out of hand.”

Notes on organic pest control

There are pluses to both synthetic pest control products and organic products.

Synthetic pest control products are safe when they are used as directed. They are also less expensive than organic pest control products, and keep pests away for a three-month stretch.

Another option is to use organic pest control products. Aguilar said organic products require more frequent application and gardener diligence. Plants need to be treated weekly, and a variety of organic products must be used in rotation to ensure plant health.

“Organics are great, but it doesn’t work if people aren’t diligent,” Aguilar said. “A gardener has to be 100 percent committed to it.”

Aguilar Plant Care is based in Escondido, and provides health care services for plants, trees and landscape for industrial, greenhouse and residential properties in San Diego County.